Walt Whitman called baseball “the American game” and so it’s fitting that the National Baseball Hall of Fame is in perhaps the quaintest and most charming of American small towns – Cooperstown, New York.
Here’s what you need to know if you’re planning a visit to Cooperstown, other than the fact that you don’t have to like baseball one bit to be smitten with this idyllic destination.
What To Do
National Baseball Hall of Fame
25 Main Street, Cooperstown
This is why most people come to Cooperstown, and even if you’re not a baseball fan, it’s tough to not be charmed by the National Baseball Hall of Fame. One friend says, “I’m not a huge baseball fan, but I couldn’t help but be impressed. I enjoyed it far more than I anticipated.” Founded in 1939, it is now perhaps the best-known sports shrine in the world with more than 40,000 artifacts.
There’s so much to see, from the Philly Phanatic to World Series rings and a piece of old Comiskey Park. There are also exhibits exploring the roles women and African-Americans have played, and an exhibit titled “Today’s Game” that features lockers of each MLB team with recent artifacts.
The museum suggests saving the Hall of Fame Gallery for the end of your visit. Only 217 former major league players have a spot here, one percent of those who have played. This space really does feel like hallowed ground.
The Farmers’ Museum
5775 State Highway 80, Cooperstown
Visitors to the Farmers’ Museum get to see what rural and village life was like in the 19th century. There is a working farmstead and a recreation of a historic village.
The Empire State Carousel is also a popular attraction featuring 25 hand-carved animals that represent the resources of New York State, such as an Erie Canal boat and a scallop shell in honor of the state shellfish.
Hours vary, check website.
Fenimore Art Museum
5798 State Highway 80, Cooperstown
This museum is more aimed at grown-ups, but the collection of folk and Native American art is impressive. You can learn more about the Coopers of Cooperstown, including author James Fenimore Cooper who wrote “The Leatherstocking Tales.”
You can get a reduced-price combination ticket if you’re visiting both the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Fenimore Art Museum.
The Fly Creek Cider Mill and Orchard
288 Goose Street, Fly Creek, NY
Just ten minutes from Cooperstown, this is a fun place to stop any time of year. It’s an historic, water-powered mill on the banks of Fly Creek that began in 1856. In addition to learning a bit of history about cider making,
Where to Eat
136 1/2 Main St, Cooperstown
During our stay, this adorable little (emphasis on little) place was packed to the gills during a bit of a downpour. But the crowds are indication of how good it is, and it’s just so quaint, like the whole town.
93 Main St, Cooperstown
While there’s not a ton of evidence that Abner Doubleday founded baseball, I do have evidence that the café named after him is a good place to stop for a meal. We didn’t mean to end up there twice, but we did, perhaps because of its proximity to the Hall. The popcorn to munch on if you have a wait can be a life saver for kids who need to eat right away. The burger was solid, and my family seemed happy and fueled up for fun at the Hall.
Also, there are lots of ice cream places along Main Street. You really can’t go wrong with any of them.
Where to Stay
Otesaga Resort Hotel60 Lake Street, Cooperstown
This historic hotel manages to be both elegant and family friendly. (It’s also possibly haunted!) We really loved staying here, and it was an easy walk to the Baseball Hall of Fame, though there’s also a trolley that stops in front of the hotel.
The verandah overlooking Otsego Lake is really stunning and it feels like a step back in time. While room rates are pricey, you can check the website for specials. Breakfast is included, and it’s amazing. The outdoor pool is heated, and grownups will appreciate relaxing in the Hawkeye Spa.
50 Commons Drive, Cooperstown
Located just four miles from the Hall, this is a more budget-friendly option that includes free breakfast and an indoor pool.
Getting to Cooperstown
Cooperstown is approximately a twelve-hour drive from Chicago. It’s about 90 miles from Albany, Syracuse and Binghamton airports.
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